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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

What Comes Next? How to Maintain Recovery After Residential Treatment

Whether outpatient, residential or any level in between, leaving treatment often brings mixed feelings. Graduating from a substance use program can be exciting and produce a sense of accomplishment and pride. It can also evoke fear and anxiety. 


It is normal to question and doubt— Am I ready to leave? Do I want recovery? Can I say no to drugs and alcohol? How will this affect my family, friends, job, etc? 


While you may experience a range of emotions, you do not have to stay in a state of doubt or anxiety. Knowing what to expect, what options are available, and creating a plan for success are all important ways to make the transition from treatment smooth and successful.

What to Expect when Leaving Treatment

When leaving residential treatment, it is normal to experience some ambivalence about recovery. Old thought patterns easily creep back in and we can rationalize or convince ourselves that we have everything under control and will have no problems using our drug of addiction again. It can be easy to think about using, or even feel like it is “deserved” after spending so much time free of substances


We might also experience intense cravings, which is common in early recovery. While these cravings feel intense and consuming, they do pass —to act on them will only continue to make the cravings worse. 


After being in a controlled and safe environment for a length of time, our old triggers can easily catch us off guard. This could be receiving a call from a using buddy, driving by an area that brings up memories from being in active addiction, or even just now having access to freedom and money. These triggers can also lead to relapse. However, by being aware of the potential emotions, cravings, and triggers, we can better anticipate and prepare for them. 

What are the Options to Continue Care?

The levels of care available for substance use treatment are like a spectrum —someone can move up or down depending on their needs and progress in treatment. When leaving residential treatment, the different treatment options for aftercare include:


  • Intensive Outpatient - Intensive Outpatient consists of group therapy for three hours a day, three to four days a week.

  • Outpatient Therapy - Outpatient therapy can be as often as twice a week or once a month. This allows one to attend individual sessions to work on specific goals. 

  • Recovery Support Groups - Community based meetings that are run by people in recovery. This includes Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, and more. One can attend multiple times a day, multiple times a week but no commitment is required.

  • Transitional Living - Sober living options like a Halfway house provides a stable living environment with a curfew, mandatory drug screens, and a schedule. Many find that this is helpful to combine with substance use treatment for added accountability and structure.

Set Yourself Up for Success

While in a substance use program, it is important to think about what life after treatment will look like. Where will I live? Where will I work? Are there people I need to cut out of my life? Are there people I will need support from? 


By thinking through and planning for a life in recovery after treatment, these plans are much more likely to be followed through on. It is much more manageable to deal with triggers, cravings, and overwhelming emotions when in a safe, supportive environment like treatment. To return to the same people, places, and things while in early recovery experiencing all of these struggles is proven challenging. 


Making plans to still have some level treatment and recovery support is crucial for long-term sustainable recovery. This could mean asking clinicians for referrals to a step down in the level of care, asking peers about recovery support groups in the area, and setting up an appointment for shortly after you graduate residential treatment. 


Not only is it important to make a plan for treatment, but also to communicate with the people in your life about needs and expectations for returning home and being in early recovery. This may include family, partners, and friends. By communicating what your new life in recovery will look like, the people in your life are more likely to adjust expectations, respect or engage in the healing process, and provide support. It may also be important to communicate with your employer if there need to be any changes to the schedule or work expectations in order to attend treatment or meetings.

Recovery Through the Phase Program at The Haven

At the Haven, we recognize that recovery is a life-long process that goes far beyond abstinence to healing and skill-building to ultimately developing a fulfilling, meaningful, and joyful life. Above all, we are here for our patients for the long run and recognize that treatment needs change over time as patients heal and grow.


Whatever your circumstance, it is important to know that you are not alone. You can live a life of sobriety after residential treatment, and we offer multiple avenues and resources to support you on your journey. Reach out to us today to learn more!